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Countertransference vs Empathy vs Compassion

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Countertransference vs Empathy vs Compassion

I had the most interesting insight today. To be honest, I will probably be reconciling and revisiting it over the next little bit. As I sat listening to a client today, I made note of a realization I had to contemplate later. Lucky you, I am doing that now.

I’ve noticed over the years that I am able to connect with people because somehow I am able to find something in them, experientially or otherwise that I can empathize with. I used to joke that I was a good social worker because I could identify with every Lana Del Rey song. More sad than funny now, I suppose, but still true enough ha.

During grad school, I often allowed myself to feel badly about this, as it was labeled countertransference. And if I am honest with myself, sometimes it may have been negative countertransference, for sure. But we learn to check our biases, as much as we can, as continually attempting to be informed humans. And the dance between empathy and countertransference is certainly a tricky one to navigate.

But what got me today, was realizing how easily I could understand the reasons, internal and external, subconscious and conscious, that this client was making the decisions that they were making. And I realized that I understood them because I had made the exact same decisions once before, for the nearly identical reasons.

All the parts of my personality and situation were right in front of me…

All the parts I have hated, questioned, forgotten, burned, and buried…

All of them.

And I felt no hatred, no questioning, no judgment for the client. It all made perfect sense.

But it was a grace I have struggled to provide within. As if I didn’t deserve compassion at all, let alone from myself. I have always felt a certain level of shame about some decisions I made in my earlier adulthood; even shame regarding smaller decisions I have made, more recently than that.

I have rarely felt any animosity or disdain toward a client, as I feel like I can understand so much of the reasons people do the things they do. Regardless of whether it is experiential understanding or trauma informed book learning, I can still understand most situations that humans end up in. (Mind you, I said MOST not all).

Yet the amount of doubt, anger, loathing, disgust, and pity I have felt for the younger versions of myself?

Vast. Expansive. Shifting. Sinking. Consuming.

I have BEEN Artax.

And yet, looking at myself, tonight, as I would a client?

Never before seen footage of a grown ass woman heffalumping sobs of forgiveness and understanding. That was a long drive home. Good gracious.

Oof.

Who even the eff am I?

 

 

 

 

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Navigation

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Navigation

Relationships are interesting things. In some regards they are utterly necessary for survival and yet other times, are contrary to it. All of our interactions are built around some sort of relationship, be it familial, romantic, platonic, sexual, business, pleasure, some combination, or even the inherent lack of a relationship is a sort of relationship in unto itself.

I have been giving a lot of thought to this thing, “Relationship” in my life; the art of it and the purpose of it. On one hand I find myself constantly in some sort of flux within them, the push and pull, yin and yang of giving and receiving energy in the confines of one. But on the other hand, I variate between desperation for one and frustration because I am in one. And I am not merely speaking of romantic ones, although recently that has been the catalyst of this thought.

I am navigating a path within a relationship I have never been on. One involving separation as a means of keeping some sort of a relationship. It is odd. It is uncomfortable. It is confusing. It is counter-intuitive to everything I have ever thought. It breaks my heart and gives me hope in the same moment. Everyone has heard the tired ol’  cliche if you love something let it go…if it’s yours it will come back, if it doesn’t it never was or however the bullshit goes. Well, I suppose in a healthy unattached view of the world that works to a sense, but in the real life application that means nothing to me.

I have attachment issues. I know that.

I have control issues. I know that.

I probably have borderline personality issues. I am aware, thanks.

I digress…

I also know that there are things within myself and my relationships that I can affect to get the desired effect….I learned long ago about the relationship between trauma and patterns, brain chemistry and triggers….however it wasn’t until recently that I was ready to hear and understand. It has been a subject of interest in a class of mine and lo and behold, I am at a receptive point in my life wherein I GET it.

I understand how previous experiences influence the list of bad things embedded in my Hippocampus. I understand that this growing list sends all sorts of emergency signals to my Amygdala. I understand why over the years chronic stresses have set my baseline window of tolerance for drama higher.

I get it. That question I have been asking myself lately? Why it seems I dealt with worse shit better in the past? Why these days the slightest thing makes me frozen with fear whereas in the past I was able to act with confidence when looking certain death literally in the eye? It all makes sense.

So now, I am set on a path to reevaluate my own triggers.

Understand that trust IS a verb and a noun.

Love is a verb AND a noun.

I am reprograming my Hippocampus in the best way I can.

I am stepping out of my Limbic, Reptilian brain and into my Vulcan, Prefrontal Cortex as consciously and conscientiously as I can.

Relationships should be fluid. When they aren’t  they become unbalanced. Just like a tug of war, if you add more to one side, the other side loses.

Every thing, every feeling, every physical act, every emotional act, is a cycle and a balancing act. I knew this all along.

But now I KNOW it.

Does it make it easier for my internal GPS?

No.

But it makes it less frightening. Giving it a name. Seeing it for what it is, is better.

Thanks for coming on my journey. ツ

XOXO,

Jani